Opening Bell: 1.4.18

Morgan Stanley calls a top; Jeremy Grantham calls for a melt-up; Merrill Lynch issues fatwa against bitcoin; and much more
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Morgan Stanley Wealth Exits Junk Bonds, Warns on Recession Risk (BBG)
“While the tax cuts just enacted in the U.S. may lead to better growth in the short term, they may also bring forth the excesses we typically see before a recession — which is something credit markets figure out before equities,” according to the note. “We recently took our remaining high yield positions to zero as we prepare for deterioration in lower-quality earnings in the U.S. led by lower operating margins.”

Intel's CEO reportedly sold shares after the company already knew about massive security flaws (CNBC)
According to an SEC filing in late November, Krzanich acquired and sold 644,135 shares at a weighted average price of $44.05 by exercising his options. Those options let him purchase the shares at prices between $12.985 and $26.795, significantly lower than where Intel was trading at the time. He sold another 245,743 shares that he already owned at a weighted average of $44.55. That brought down the total number of shares he owns to 250,000 — which is the minimum number of shares that the CEO of Intel is required to own, according to a Motley Fool report. Krzanich sold all of those shares for a little over $39 million, apparently netting about $25 million.

Merrill Lynch Bars Trading of Bitcoin Fund, Futures (WSJ)
Merrill Lynch has blocked clients and financial advisers who trade on their behalf from buying bitcoin, citing concerns over the cryptocurrency’s investment suitability. The ban applies to all accounts and precludes the firm’s roughly 17,000 advisers not only from pitching bitcoin-related investments but also from executing client requests to trade the Grayscale Investment Trust bitcoin fund, according to a person familiar with the matter. RELATED: Egypt's Religious Leader: Crypto Trading Forbidden Under Islamic Law

JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs come top of banker pay league in Britain (Reuters)
JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs paid their top bankers in Britain an average of $1.5 million each in 2016, compared with $1 million for local rivals HSBC and Barclays, data released by the banks last year shows. Data compiled by Reuters from 13 banks’ filings, some of which were released only late last month, shows they paid an average of $1.06 million to such staff in 2016, down from $2 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2013 when new European Union rules aimed at curbing banker bonuses took effect.

Bank analyst very proud of his cryptocurrency mining rig (FT Alphaville)
Our guy at RBC published “The $10tril Bull Case” — not just a bullish piece, mind you, the bullish piece — for “the Crypto-Currency space.” Steves also included a photo of a home-built digital currency “mining rig” in his 3 Jan note, metaphorically shaking his fist into the mighty gale of Mifid II the day it made landfall.

Bracing Yourself for a Possible Near-Term Melt-Up: A Very Personal View (Jeremy Grantham)
I find myself in an interesting position for an investor from the value school. I recognize on one hand that this is one of the highest-priced markets in US history. On the other hand, as a historian of the great equity bubbles, I also recognize that we are currently showing signs of entering the blow-off or melt-up phase of this very long bull market. The data on the high price of the market is clean and factual. We can be as certain as we ever get in stock market analysis that the current price is exceptionally high. In contrast, my judgment on the melt-up is based on a mishmash of statistical and psychological factors based on previous eras, each one very different, so that much of the information available is not easily comparable. Yet, strangely, I find the less statistical data more compelling in this bubble context than the simple fact of overpricing. Whether you will also, dear reader, remains to be seen.

Why Low Inflation Is No Surprise (Project Syndicate)
In my view, interpreting today’s low inflation as a symptom of temporary supply-side shocks will most likely prove to be a mistake. This diagnosis seems to misread the historical evidence from the period between the early 1970s and the late 1990s, and is thus based on a fundamentally flawed assumption about the primary driver of inflation in the global North since World War II.

"You Can’t Make This S--- Up": My Year Inside Trump's Insane White House (Michael Wolff/Hollywood Reporter) Donald Trump's small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country's future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job. At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

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Opening Bell: 7.20.17

Goldman is losing ground to Morgan Stanley; John Cryan sees a hard Brexit coming; doctors found 27 contact lenses in some lady's eye; and more.

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Opening Bell: 4.19.17

Morgan Stanley does victory lap around Goldman; Treasury Department wants your opinion on century bonds; which emoji makes the best sex toy?; and more.

Opening Bell: 10.02.12

JPMorgan Sued On Mortgage Bonds (WSJ) New York's top prosecutor opened a new front in efforts to hold banks accountable for the financial crisis by filing a civil lawsuit against J.P. Morgan Chase, alleging widespread fraud by the company's Bear Stearns unit in the sale of mortgage-backed securities. The case is the first to be brought under the aegis of a group of federal and state prosecutors and regulators formed by President Barack Obama in January. If successful, the lawsuit could point the way to significantly more financial pain for the big banks, which face threatened government actions and numerous investor lawsuits tied to mortgage securities that soured in the crisis. Greece's Creditors Look Askance At Cutbacks (WSJ) Greece's international lenders cast doubt on parts of Athens' plans to save billions of euros through new cutbacks and tax measures, throwing a potential wrench in the government's efforts to reach a quick deal to unlock new aid for the country. The troika of Greece's international inspectors—the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank—rejected as much as €2 billion ($2.57 billion) of austerity measures, a senior finance ministry official said. Spain Adds $32 Billion Power-System Bailout to Bank Rescue (Bloomberg) After Spain’s rescue of its banks and cash-strapped regions, the 2013 budget reveals a bailout of the power industry to cover 25 billion euros ($32 billion) of debt accumulated by the electricity system. The spending blueprint released two days ago adds 100 billion euros to the nation’s debt from the rescue packages by the end of 2012, driving its ratio to gross domestic product up 16.8 percentage points to 85.3 percent of total output. Fed Chief Takes On Critics (WSJ) Some Republican lawmakers and foreign government officials say the Fed's policies, by lowering the U.S. government's borrowing costs, take pressure off the White House and Congress to restrain the growing deficit. "I find this argument unpersuasive," Mr. Bernanke said in a speech to the Economic Club of Indiana. "The responsibility for fiscal policy lies squarely with the administration and the Congress." Moreover, he said, "using monetary policy to try to influence the political debate on the budget would be highly inappropriate." Woman who chomped off boyfriend's testicles back in court for breaching non-contact order after he took her (NYDN) Martin Douglas required emergency surgery and 19 stitches to re-attach his scrotum after the drunken assault by his then-girlfriend Maria Topp. But after rekindling their unlikely romance Topp says she was 'stabbed in the back' by Mr Douglas after he reported her to police for breaching her restraining order. Topp, 45, admitted unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm as her trial at Newcastle Crown Court was about to start last October. The mother-of-four was handed a 12-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, plus a restraining order which banned her from contacting Mr Douglas. However, after a ‘chance’ encounter in Newcastle in March this year, the pair got back together again. Topp, 45, had a ‘friendly chat’ with her ex-flame when they bumped into each other in Yates’ wine bar in the city centre. She then sent Mr Douglas a text asking ‘Do you still love me?’ Topp and Mr Douglas resumed their old relationship, which fizzled out again in June this year at which point Mr Douglas reported Topp’s breach of her restraining order. Merrill Plots Raid On Vulnerable Rival (WSJ) In a raid that stands out even in Wall Street's aggressive recruiting culture, Merrill Lynch is arming some managers with lists of top Morgan Stanley Wealth Management brokers who are considered ripe for defection, according to people familiar with the firm's recruiting. The so-called "mapping" of Morgan Stanley brokers shows the Bank of America Corp. unit is pushing to capitalize on technological and reputational blows at Morgan Stanley, according to these people. Morgan Stanley is coming off a tumultuous computer system conversion and Facebook's botched initial public offering, which has left investors nursing billions of dollars in losses. Merrill Lynch has enlisted some of its 11 market executives—regional managers who report to brokerage head John Thiel—to call top-grossing Morgan Stanley brokers. Those calls typically are made by lower-ranking workers such as branch managers, these people said. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has baby boy, becomes first-time mom (NYP) CEO Marissa Mayer is a mom after giving birth last night, her husband, Zachary Bogue, posted on Twitter. “Baby boy Bogue born last night. Mom (@marissamayer) and baby are doing great — we couldn’t be more excited!” Bogue tweeted this morning...Mayer has said she is taking a few weeks of “working” maternity leave and is expected to bring her son to work. Ex-Madoff Workers Face More Charges in Fraud Indictment (Bloomberg) Five longtime employees of Bernard Madoff’s former investment firm face more charges related to the jailed con man’s Ponzi scheme, which the government claims got its start in the 1970s. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan yesterday released a revised indictment expanding the charges against former Madoff employees Daniel Bonventre, Annette Bongiorno, Joann Crupi, Jerome O’Hara and George Perez. The indictment adds to the 17 criminal counts filed against the former employees in November 2010, for a total of 33 counts. Bacon Shortage Is ‘Overblown,’ Economists Say (ABC) If you started stocking your freezer with bacon to prepare for the upcoming pork shortage, you can start cooking some of it. Economists are telling consumers to expect a slight rise in price but not the “overblown” price increase in recent news reports. “It seems alarmist,” said Purdue University economist Christ Hurt, in response to the prediction that pork prices would double by the end of next year. While Hurt says pork prices might increase only 4 or 5 percent, though he notes that the drought has caused feed prices to go up sharply. “The one thing we don’t want to do is scare consumers,” he says, suggesting people try other types of meat if they are trying to save money.